Read and understand the assignment completely. Read all of the Course Notes and Writing Workshop notes, as well as the assigned textbook pages. Too often we have encountered wonderfully written essays that left out some key parts of the assignment, and have had to deduct points from a student that is clearly capable of writing a strong assignment.
Use proper terminology. Be sure to review the terminology from all previous modules and to use the specific film analysis terms where appropriate. These terms are what help the reader “see” what’s in the image – without them the reader either has to guess what you mean or rely on your say-so.
Be specific and use concrete examples. Whenever you make a claim about the film – whether it is about a character trait, a formal element used for a specific purpose, a narrative structure, or anything else, you must follow it up with a concrete example from the film. This example must involve a description of a specific case of the thing you are arguing for as it appears in the film, using proper terminology.
Preparation. The following steps allow you to prepare to write a strong critical essay:
1. Read about the film and develop some starting questions you will ask yourself during the viewing.
2. Actively view the film at least 3 times, each time focusing more and more squarely on scenes, formal elements, or events that you will want to discuss in your paper. Make a note of where they appear in the film.
3. Select a methodology that will best suit your argument.
4. Do background research to help you support your argument.
5. Write an outline including a thesis statement and supporting evidence in full sentences.
Organization. The following are the parts of a critical essay:
1. Introduction where you set up a problem or question about the film and present a thesis statement where you teach the reader something about the film in relation to the problem you have decided to tackle.
2. A body of the essay where each paragraph presents a single piece of supporting evidence. Supporting evidence may include a summary of your research, a character description or summary of an important theme of the plot, or a description of a key piece of textual evidence using appropriate terminology.
3. A conclusion where you expand or in some way problematize your thesis based on the information presented in the body of the essay.
Revise! Look for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. But also keep an eye out for the flow of the argument, make sure you have proper transitions between your paragraphs, and be ruthless with repetitions or extraneous information that is left behind from earlier versions. DELETE RUTHLESSLY so your essay is clear and economical in both writing and structure. Have an outside reader review your essay for the things you have seen too many times and no longer notice.
Review all of your previous feedback and make sure you address the issues in your final paper.
Cite properly. The film time you mention a film in your essay, you must follow it up with parenthetical citation unless those things are mentioned previously in your paper. For example: The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963) or “Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds (1963)” or “Alfred Hitchcock released The Birds in 1963.”
When citing an article, be sure to include the page number in the text and full citation in the bibliography.
Be creative! Say something interesting, unique or unexpected, and then challenge yourself to back it up.